Belfast Telegraph

Not disabled enough - The man missing a lower leg who's been told he'll lose his car and all his benefits

Ross Ruberry with his Motability car
Ross Ruberry with his Motability car
Ross with mum Rosemary
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A Belfast man who lost a leg to childhood cancer has been told he is not "disabled enough" for a Motability car after having his benefits withdrawn.

After going through the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment process, 26-year-old Ross Ruberry now gets no benefits - despite previously receiving the highest payment rate on Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

PIP began to replace DLA in 2013. It brought in a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews of a claimant's ability to wash, dress, cook and get around, as well as their reading and communication skills.

Football mad Ross, who is a big Glentoran supporter, has already faced a battle with cancer which resulted in the loss of his lower right leg 14 years ago.

As part of the new PIP assessment, he was asked to stand on one leg.

His cancer diagnosis at the age of 11 in June 2003 came after a tumour was discovered in his ankle.

Just over a year later his right leg had to be amputated below the knee, on his mother Rosemary's 50th birthday.

Since passing his driving test six years ago Ross has had the use of a specially adapted Audi A1 car, which has made a huge difference to his life.

"Getting my driving licence completely changed everything for me and made me much more independent as I didn't have to be relying on anyone else for lifts or use public transport," he said.

But Ross recently received a letter informing him that his PIP application was denied, which he says has been deeply distressing.

Now he has to pay for the car himself or he faces having it taken away from him.

The decision to withdraw Ross' benefit was based on his answers in the application process.

"I had to fill out a form and some of the questions didn't really apply to me," he said.

"They judged me on communication and even during the assessment they asked me to put my hands above my head and stand on one leg.

"If having an artificial leg doesn't mean that you're disabled, then what does?

"How disabled do you have to be to be disabled enough in their eyes?

"This has been an ongoing process since January when I first applied for PIP and it's been extremely difficult and stressful. I'm so angry and at a total loss about what to do next, as we're now into August and nothing has been sorted out."

Ross was given a date to hand his car back to his dealership, who offered him £300 for it, or else he will have to pay £12,500 to buy it from Audi.

"I wasn't aware of the appeals process that would allow me to hold on to the car," he said.

"I have had to take days off work due to the stress of it all and just feel left in limbo as I have no idea what is going to happen.

"My mum and older sister are livid that this has happened to me, but along with my friends they have been really supportive.

"I don't want to be a burden on people if I lose my car.

"Things like shopping will be nearly impossible and trying to get to work would involve taking four buses per day.

"Sometimes I have to attend Musgrave Park Hospital to have adjustments made to my artificial leg, so that will be another challenge."

Ross said the criteria on which PIP assessments are based needs to be urgently reviewed.

"I never wanted to be in the position of having to be in receipt of DLA indefinitely, but sadly because of my circumstances that's just the reality of my life," he added.

When contacted, the Department for Communities said it could not comment on individual cases.

It added: "All benefit notifications contain information about what to do if a person disagrees with a decision made by the Department for Communities.

"Anyone who doesn't agree with a decision can ask for it to be reviewed and provide any additional information.

"There is then also the opportunity to appeal to an independent tribunal.

"Measures are currently in place to support people who are financially worse off following reassessment from DLA to PIP whilst they appeal to the independent tribunal."

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